Being a man in my late-thirties with a lot of personal things to still work through, video games have been a constant in my life. Like a lot of other things, my relationship with video games is complicated - for years, I was afraid of playing single player experiences without realizing it. I was afraid of failure. This is until recently.
My fear didn't keep me from buying games and building a large library likely adding up to many hundreds of hours of interactive experiences. Moving to a completely new area and taking years to make new friends when I was twenty was one of the hardest moments of my life. I had a PS2 and was pouring money into games and accessories - it wouldn't be uncommon for me to die in a game and turn off the system off altogether. I was late to the X Box 360/ PS3 generation and when my new friends had steered me towards the 360 - that introduced other dynamics that would produce the habit of playing multiplayer games. There's nothing wrong with playing multiplayer games and I still dive into Call of Duty regularly. Socializing through playing CoD: Modern Warfare 2, and a little later - and a lot more obsessively -WoW, filled this hole I had for companionship in a time where I didn't physically have much of that.
The online companionship did lead to me meeting more people and putting faces to voices and creating additional positive relationships. That didn't last. A large fallout from my friend lead to me losing all of my gaming friends and going out on my own. This didn't lead me to trying more single-player games, but I still kept buying them. Playing through single player games in completion was a rarity - Mass Effect 2 standing out as a large exception. Though finding people to talk about it with, outside of online, proved to be very difficult. I sank deep into the World of Warcraft rabbit hole and that proved to be more destructive than therapeutic in the long run.
I developed what I can best describe as video game fomo - I wanted to be part of the discussion, any discussion. I wanted to play the hot new game, regardless and this developed into another bad and ultimately destructive pattern. Whenever I was stressed, or feeling down, I would go and buy a new game. I wouldn't finish it, or most other games. I would fall back on what felt familiar. This continued, though a lot less severely, into this year.
Despite my continuing to play online games, I never made additional friends or deep connections through gaming. At thirty, I married my non-gamer wife and continued to obsess over video games while rarely actually playing them. I would think about playing them and obsess over gameplay footage and reviews, then end up falling back on CoD multiplayer for my gaming fix. I was afraid of dying in single player games, and having low self-esteem I proved to be afraid of further failure in my life.
With this year's events and results, and being fortunate enough to be in a household of secure jobs, I found I have a lot more time for gaming. A lot of that was spent on CoD, then I started thinking about the single player games I hadn't finished. I went back and restarted Uncharted 4 and played through that over a few weeks. It was eye opening. When I died, I didn't just quit and turn the system off or run off to a different video-game security blanket. I kept going through with it, like I did with the third one on PS3, and saw it to completion. It made me realize that I'm not actually a bad gamer and gave me this sense of confidence that I can actually complete these games that I had somehow put on a pedestal for all of these years.
Thinking back, I can count all of the single player games I finished over the course of the last twelve years on one hand. I love good stories and character growth and I had denied myself that because I didn't think I had the ability to finish the experiences. This realization may not seem like a big deal, but the moment it hit me that I got over something that has been over my head for seventeen years is truly elating. I don't think I'll charge enthusiastically into "Bloodborne" anytime soon, but realization is definitely a step in the right direction. Maybe I should turn that difficulty up a notch.